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Space Beast Terror Fright

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Early Access Update Femtioåtta (58)
build id: 608BB9BA

nornware AB is happy to announce a new update to Space Beast Terror Fright.


(PROBABLY) PENULTIMATE EARLY ACCESS UPDATE
Much to my chagrin SBTF is now in its sixth year of development. That's way too long.

The past year or so hasn't really seen a huge number of updates, and much of my time has been spent on researching yet another potential re-write of the network code (I've talked about it as a "hybrid" system). Progress has been made in that direction, but ultimately I've come to realize that even though that system has the potential to increase perceived quality of the networking experience it won't actually add any new functionality.

I've also spent quite a bit of time on a SBTF Discord server (https://discord.gg/GepWN2V) talking to some of my users, and this has really improved my objective sense of where this game is at and as such I think it's time to draw the line.

The list of things that COULD be done is infinite, but I feel that SBTF has been in a pretty good place for quite a long time now. There is by this point quite a bit of resistence to change in the codebase, and also I'm much more motivated by the thought of working on a potential sequel product; I've already done quite a bit of research and prototyping along those lines.

Subsequently I'm hoping that Update 58 will be the next-to-last update for SBTF before it finally leaves Early Access. I'm expecting Update 59 to be necessary as I've been doing some pretty extensive changes to the code and as such expect bugs in Update 58, but I also plan for Update 59 to include all the absolutely-must-have polish changes as well.

Of course I will be monitoring the state of SBTF even beyond release, and will fix any critical bugs that may come up. Don't hesitate to report issues in the forums or via email.


NEW OPTION - BEASTS LURK
I have implemented a new option for Beast "lurk" behaviour. Since the ability for Beasts to hide / lurk in the infestation was implemented it has been observed that this can be exploited in conjunction with total infestation and map saturation (when the number of live Beasts reaches the game limit), resulting in a situation where all Beasts are lurking and will remain that way unless you shoot them or get too close.

This new option defaults to on (legacy behaviour) but with it turned off Beasts will never lurk in infestation, and this results in a generally more hectic gameplay experience (reminiscent of old). Note that in Randomize All / MotD this is among the options that will mutate on the fly, and I think this leads to even more dynamism in the overall experience; whole rooms of lurking Beasts may suddenly awake all at once. Also in Campaign of the Week this options starts on but will turn off over time as options randomly "get harder" over the course of the campaign.

NEW OPTION - REACTOR SAFETY PROTOCOL
Also new is the option for "reactor safety protocol" which is the relatively new behaviour of all barriers opening during a reactor overload (defaults to on). This addition has proven to be somewhat contentious in the community and that (along with the fact that I really wanted the Beast lurk option) led me to implement this as an option as well. Note however that this option does NOT mutate on the fly, but in Randomize All / MotD this will be randomized at map generation time. In CotW this will start off (legacy behaviour) and eventually change to on (all barriers open during overload).

Note also that you might want to adjust your user plan options, as the new options are new bits that will default to 0 / off.


INSTANT ACTION PIPELINE
It has been speculated that a rather common behaviour among players is a reluctance to actually host network parties while much preferring to join parties that are in progress. This has rather a detrimental affect on the health of the multiplayer community, and it got me thinking about ways to improve the general situation.

What I've come up with is an extra screen that precedes both the local game setup screen as well as entering the network pub, which allows access to the "Instant Action" pipeline. This is a much simplified screen which allows you to choose the number of players (in local mode) and your weapon loadout(s) and then simply jump straight into the action without any further setup required. This is technically equivalent to Randomize All, and all character progression is to those character slots, but you won't be exposed to any setup nor statistics before or after missions when in the Instant Action screen.

For network play things are a bit more complex under the hood, but everything is streamlined in order to get you into the action as fast and as painlessly as possible. When you press Launch Mission on the networked Instant Action screen you will automatically be placed in the first free slot of the first available party (in the interest of filling up all parties). If there are eligable parties you will simply become the host of your own new party (in Randomize All mode), and incoming players can / will join you as they come along.

Note also that this is 100% compatible with the legacy pub system which still exists and functions the same way as before. Regardless of how a party was started (Instant Action or via the pub) they are technically the same thing, with the only difference being that when Instant Action parties are initially hosted they will run in Randomize All mode with all default party options (friendly fire on, reinforcements 2, and public). The ideas here are to not fragment the user base at all, retain all deep legacy options, while also allowing for a fast-path into the game for those who are uninitiated or may simply be uninterested in messing with the options.

I hope that this addition will further ease players into the networked aspects of SBTF.


CHARACTERS / STATISTICS REWRITE
For the longest time I've wanted to properly support character statistics for all characters in a mission. With the implementation of reinforcements long ago this kind of broke, with the outcome screen showing only the last characters in each slot. I thought this would be pretty simple to fix, but it quickly ballooned in complexity and is the main reason this update has taken so long to complete.

The technical details are messy and lengthy and ultimately not really interesting, but finally I've (hopefully) managed to repair all of the damage caused by this change (among others), and now you can view statistics for all characters in the outcome screen using the scroll wheel while hovering with the mouse cursor above each of the "slots" (red, green, blue, gold). Because of the need to track the mouse cursor position both the outcome and the team statistics are now modal as opposed to previously being "mouse over" only - I realized that the problem of displaying all this information really becomes three-dimensional.

This might seem like a minor or even insignificant improvement to the game as a whole, and indeed had I known how difficult the implementation would prove to be I most likely would have skipped it. However it was all mixed up with numerous other improvements (not least being the new options) so I was reluctant to throw away the development branch entirely and as a result continued to push through. Technically there have been a number of other changes made under the hood that were intended to facilitate the hybrid network implementation, but again I've decided against doing that prior to release. That stuff will however most likely find its way into future products.


MISCELLANEOUS
  • "SURVIVED" instead of "SUCCESS" in outcome table.

  • User Plans are now robust for no internet connection / unavailable backend.

  • Better user interface / incremental decoding of User Plans.

  • Increase the number of vfx / sfx events from 32 to 64 per tick after identifying certain things being missed / dropped.

  • Space Beast variants no longer have easily identfiable stripes on their tails, making them better camouflaged in infestation.

  • LAN network mode now uses computer name instead of trying resolve a host name from ip adress (faster and more reliable).

  • Networking is in general more robust, with all recoverable / non-fatal errors being silently ignored.

  • The "rapid fire" bug in network mode has been addressed by fudging timestamps.

  • Better replay restocking, showing currently parsed lines while still restocking.

  • During reactor overload all barrier frames now alternate between evacuation prompt and time remaining until overload.

  • During reactor overload fence frames now properly show evacuation prompt.

  • During reactor overload all barrier control boxes are disabled if reactor safety protocol is on.
As always, thank you for your support and patience.
/nornware AB c/o johno

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